2. Common areas

Common areas include break areas, bathrooms, toilets, meeting rooms and accommodation used by many people. The potential for spread of coronavirus is higher in these areas if proper controls are not in place.

Identify and review the common areas within your workplace including:

  • restrooms
  • kitchens and tea points
  • changing facilities and showers
  • lifts
  • canteens
  • reception areas

Also consider pinch points in your premises such as narrow corridors, staircases, doorways and storage areas.

You may need to put in place a combination of control measures to keep people safe.

General control measures

Consider putting the following control measures in place for common areas:

  • Limit the number of people at any one time using any areas that may become congested
  • Use floor markings to maintain social distancing
  • Try to maximise ventilation
  • Make sure that your workforce is clear on the rules when using common areas
  • Minimise contact between people using barriers or screens
  • Display signs reminding people to socially distance, wash hands and not touch their faces
  • Work with landlords and other tenants in multi-tenant sites or buildings to ensure consistency across areas such as receptions and staircases

Guidance on cleaning, hygiene and handwashing.

Break areas

Employers must make sure all workers, including those visiting your premises for work, have somewhere to rest and eat and should also provide facilities to heat food or water for hot drinks. Find out more about having the right workplace facilities.

Consider these control measures:

  • Ensure that workers understand the need to maintain social distancing and good hand hygiene before entering any areas where food is consumed
  • If workers need to leave the site at break times remind them to maintaining social distancing while off-site
  • If canteens are used, consider if food, cutlery etc can be delivered to tables. Where canteens need to serve food reconfigure seating and tables to maintain spacing and reduce face-to-face interactions. Mark the floor in case furniture is accidentally moved
  • Stagger or extend break times to limit the numbers of people using the facilities
  • Create additional break areas where required such as in unused rooms. It may be possible to create outside break areas where it is safe to do so

Bathrooms, toilets and washbasins (welfare facilities)

You have a legal duty to provide adequate toilet facilities that are easy and safe to access. These could be staff, visitor or customer facilities. This applies to any workers (including those not employed or contracted to you), and any visitors or customers, who enter your workplace. The legal responsibility to provide access to these facilities lies with whoever controls the premises.

Refusing access for any reason, including as an infection control measure, is against the law. It is vital that people can wash their hands regularly, so not allowing access to welfare facilities may increase the risk of COVID-19 spreading.

When completing your COVID-19 risk assessment, review the provisions you have to make sure they allow people (including visiting workers) to social distance, use the toilets and wash hands frequently. Consider whether you need to provide any additional washing facilities.

To protect people when using existing toilet facilities consider the following:

  • Take some static facilities out of use where they are less than 2 m apart. If this includes toilet facilities such as urinals you should ensure that you still have a sufficient number of toilets in your workplace
  • Put markings on floors to show people the right distances or to show people where to stand
  • Put in place systems such as ‘one in, one out’ if it isn’t possible to maintain social distancing

We have separate guidance on cleaning bathrooms, toilets and washbasins during the pandemic.

Meeting rooms

Consider the following measures:

  • Use remote working tools to avoid in-person meetings
  • Only absolutely necessary participants should physically attend meetings and should social distance throughout
  • Avoid sharing pens, documents and other objects
  • Provide hand sanitiser in meeting rooms
  • Hold meetings outdoors or in well-ventilated rooms whenever possible
  • For areas where regular meetings take place, using floor markings to help people maintain social distancing

Accommodation

Employers who provide accommodation for their workers should consider the following:

  • Identify measures to keep workers safe while they are staying in accommodation and working, in your risk assessment
  • Minimise numbers of people living in shared accommodation
  • Treat each accommodation living unit (eg caravan) as a ‘household’
  • How you will ensure if one person in the ‘household’ shows symptoms that all will self-isolate in line with the guidance for households with possible coronavirus infection
  • Workers should not live or stay in more than one ‘household’
  • Keep people who live in the same household together in the same work group
  • Try not to mix households while they are working
  • Try to keep each household socially distanced from other households
  • Check workers' health before they start work each day
  • If a worker develops symptoms of coronavirus while working they should return to their household. The individual, and anyone else highlighted by government guidance should then follow the government guidelines on isolation
  • Provide fire safety precautions as normal

Guidance on cleaning, hygiene and handwashing.

Page last reviewed: 5 October 2020

Next review due: 2 November 2020

Updated 2020-10-05